Arrival of the Purple Finch

For years I have wanted a bird feeder. This last birthday Damien made me one for a gift. This feeder is the gift the keeps on giving. Thank you Damien.

purple finch at feeder

The most recent arrival to the feeder is the Purple Finch. This spring is the first time we've seen a purple finch; and we're all in love with the rich red of the males.

purple finch at feeder

These beautiful birds have been hard to photograph. I spent the winter in the company of friendly chickadees and bossy nuthatches, both of which are comfortable with human comings and goings.

purple finch on feeder

Not so with these purple finches; every photo of these birds has been taken through a pane of glass. And even then I have stalk carefully and slowly to get my camera into place. These crimson beauties take flight with just the hint of movement.

purple finch on feeder

The kids have been inspired to paint the birds; turning the bird feeder into a spring nature study. Actually the feeder has provided non-stop nature study since Damien installed it five months ago.

A little note about nature study

For the record, we have never done nature study in the true Charlotte Mason sense, nor do I feel the need to. I mention this only because some people get hung up on form, when you really needn't.

boy drawing bird

Are we doing this right? There isn't a right way, so stop worrying about it and just enjoy what you're doing. Whether that's biking on a wooded path and appreciating the trees as you zip along. Or, watching a bird feeder and cataloging, or not, the birds that come visit. Or going for walks in the city where you live, looking for anything that blooms and taking home some petals to press.

purple finch paint palette

The best kind of nature study is the kind your children are inspired to do.

We don't do a lot of sitting in the woods to sketch what we see. In fact, we never do that. Our outdoor time is usually pretty active. The kids instead paint, draw, and sketch (at the kitchen table) based on photographs found in books, on the internet, or ones I've taken.

watercolor nature journal birds

We've never even had nature journals, gasp. I tried, it didn't take. We just use pieces of paper and the ones the kids want to keep are often displayed for a time and then saved in their learning portfolio.

watercolor birds

Also, nature study is a self-directed study at our home. Not something I need to plan or schedule for, except in terms of having supplies on hand for when the spirit moves.

kids painting birds

In case you're interested, the Peterson Birds of North America is one of our favorite nature study apps for the iPad. We also refer to our paper technology guide book quite often. We like the eastern birds guide. But there is a western guide also.

How do you like to do nature study in your home?

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  • Jill Foley

    Jill Foley on May 8, 2013, 2:57 p.m.

    I find that the more I try to direct things like nature study, the less appealing it is to my kids. I bought Nature journals and we tried doing a little every week last year and they HATED it. I put the journals away, but still within reach and told the girls they were just for fun and doodling now. A couple days later I noticed my oldest sketching in hers. 

    I find this to be true in other areas as well....


  • Shelley R.

    Shelley R. on May 8, 2013, 3 p.m.

    I would deem our way of Nature Study close to CM.  We live in the city so our nature study does need to be organized somewhat.  We do hike or adventure (a whole afternoon, once a week, sometimes with picnic lunch included).  Lucky for us there's 43 miles of hiking trail through our city that continues up the shore line of Lake Superior and there's state parks from 30 min. to 1 hr. drive.  We do have the stetch books for watercolors, but it's because they worked.  The kids ask to 'record' they're findings, but the painting is often done at home, with specimins brought inside.  On some adventures we'll pack field guides, paints, and books, and bring them along in case we find something we can't bring home.  (Like a jack-in-the-pulpit)  

    Also, I was afraid that if I had 'nature study' on Wed. (let's say) it wouldn't become a natural rhythm in they're way of observing the created world.  I want them to be attentive every time they're outside.  


  • Heather

    Heather on May 8, 2013, 5:20 p.m.

    My 8 year-old daughter has become very into bird study all on her own.  She has discovered the bird cams on the Cornell Lab of Orinthology website.  One of the hawks currently has babies in the nest.  She likes to watch the momma hawk feed her babies and ask questions through online chat.  Our nature journals never really took off either.


  • Tonya

    Tonya on May 8, 2013, 5:37 p.m.

    Hi Renee, Abraham used a net to get a salamander out of our pond today - he put it in a bucket of pond water on our porch and we spent time going through the National Audubon Society's Amphibian Guide until we found "our" salamander which turned out to be an Eastern Newt which turned up some really interesting facts. Perhaps we will try to draw him later. Yes, we learn, discover, and take the time out as the situation presents itself - really no need to plan! Can you tell me a bit more about the Peterson Birch Guide App? How does the app work? Is it just the book or is it somehow interactive? Trying to decide if I should invest in something like a tablet device for the educational benefits (research, etc...) Blessings, Tonya


    • renee

      renee on May 8, 2013, 6:15 p.m.

      Tonya, it's like a book on a tablet. Essentially, it is a book on a tablet. But with bird sounds and more photos etc. Maybe even video, I don't know. I don't use it too much, the kids use it more than me. 

      I love apps. I think the judicious use of apps can totally enhance and support the learning environment. I've dusted off an old article I had started in early winter about technology tools and literacy and will be publishing, fairly soon, a fairly complete summary of what we use and why we use it.

      I think some of these technology tools are especially helpful for children who struggle with reading, like Laurent does. But I'll talk more about it in that article. 


    • Nicolas

      Nicolas on May 24, 2013, 6:36 p.m.

      Good way of telling, and fastidious paragraph to get data concerning my presentation topic, which i am going to convey in institution of higher education.


  • Alaina

    Alaina on May 8, 2013, 5:43 p.m.

    My 4 year old always comments on the purple see, purple is her favourite colour, but that is NOT a purple bird!  :)

    I love your tips about nature study- the "whatever works for you" approach.  

    Perhaps you've mentioned this before, but I don't see it anywhere- did you "teach" your kids how to paint and draw etc? Or did you just expose them to materials? I know that your son also has lots of talent, so that comes into play...but I am trying to figure out how much "teaching" of art to do for my children and how much just to plunk down materials and have them experiment...I think it should be mostly experimenting but maybe with some guidance.  


    • renee

      renee on May 11, 2013, 12:38 p.m.

      Alaina, I've registered your question and I got a similar one via e-mail this week. I'm putting those together into a response to publish either here as a comment or as a post. 


  • JennO

    JennO on May 9, 2013, 2:37 p.m.

    Your words always resonate with me...I love your "inspired to-do" approach to learning...really the only/best/successful approach...if lifelong love of learning is a goal. :)  I'm gonna check-out that app AND tell Damien he should add that feeder to his shop. It is so cool.

    Off to hike and study nature.


  • Jenna

    Jenna on May 9, 2013, 5:12 p.m.

    The watercolor painting are beautiful!!!! I am looking forward to the time when my kids are old enough to do this. Thanks for sharing.


  • Rana

    Rana on May 10, 2013, 12:52 a.m.

    We tried the whole CM way of nature study with journaling.  I even bought Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study, but follow through was hard for us.  We like to watch out our window or when we are walking,or camping  we see something of intrest either I will or one of the kids will grab the bird book, tree book, or plant and herbs book and my camera and start looking up what  it is and snap pictures.  If the mood strikes they may draw what they have seen. 

    Your kiddos paintings are great.  I need to invest in some better paint supplies.


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